Article 6 of the Japan-U.S. security treaty stipulates the U.S. forces that can be stationed in Japan are the army, navy and air force. The U.S. Marines are deployed in Japan (Okinawa) as a cog of the U.S. Navy on the basis of this provision. But can the marines really be considered the navy?

Certainly, the marines are attached to the Department of the Navy at the Pentagon. It is also a historical fact that the U.S. Marine Corps was created out of the necessity of the navy to have its own expeditionary force. As such, not only the general public but also military-connected people tend to think that the marines belong to the navy. But this understanding is gravely mistaken.

Today the marines and the navy are totally different military organizations, each having its own chain of command. The marines’ field of activity is mostly on land. If they are at sea, they are there only temporarily till they land on the shore of enemy territory.

Certainly, the marines are attached to the Department of the Navy, but the department is a statutory office headed by a civilian secretary charged with the administration of the navy and the marines.

If thinking of the marines as part of the navy is correct, then marine generals would not be able to participate in the Joint Chiefs of Staff on a par with navy admirals, though in reality they do. Nor should a marine commander be a member of the Japan-U.S. Joint Committee on par with a navy commander and discuss matters relevant to the security treaty because the marines are supposed to be subsumed under the arm of the navy.

Furthermore, based on this thinking, the only marines that can be stationed in Okinawa must be clerical personnel, not active-duty elements.

Could the government authorities, either U.S. or Japanese, clarify for us the legal basis on which the U.S. Marines can be stationed in Okinawa?


The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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